The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘books’

On Design

Posted by BigWords on April 17, 2016

As I write this, the cold winds of winter still brushing against the land, the paperwork hasn’t all been signed and filed and the preparation of some basic material is still pending, but… I am really excited at the prospect of not having to rush things. Yes, there is a date picked for the launch of the madness train, but it is more of a celebration of publishing as a thing that exists rather than a point at which material must be produced by.

I’ve been poring over old titles to see why literature makes me so happy (I had fourteen books in the caravan, and all of them were read multiple times), and the realization that everything has a place in the grand order came to me. Like an insight which should have been obvious, but needed pushing towards in order to be uncovered.

It is simple to see, looking back, that the Penguin titles were the foundation of color as a brand. The use of bold color to indicate genre was not new to marketing, with the most visible use being vinyl records, but books feel different – less readily catalogued, more unwieldy. While a simple border color can hint at things being part of some larger scheme, it doesn’t readily follow that it would work for every title.

Indeed, it can harm future titles if a books performs remarkably badly, hinting that the rest of the works accompanying the title follows in the same direction. It also makes it difficult to see the movement in genre styles which come with the passing of time, putting older works and modern into a great stew which makes discerning patterns – ironically – more difficult.

Using specific fonts is another way in which a line can stand out, but this creates the same problems. Design? House designs tend to skew towards the old ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ mindset, and even though a great number of iconic, timeless titles originally appeared under basic covers, I am less than enthused about the use of strict house styles. Maybe it is a way of preparing books for the world which has had its moment

When the future chroniclers of the state of ebooks come to talk of design, what will be the consensus on design quality? Will there be gushing commentary regarding the chances taken, or will there be mockery. I am worried that we are all going to look like cavemen when historians living on the moon begin to disseminate their masterworks on literary history.

There is already a Tumblr about bad Kindle covers, and while I feel bad for those covered, it might be the impetus to shake up their process. Hell, it could drive people to pick up one of the books to see what the contents are like, but I might be wrong about that – if anyone has had a title mentioned there, they might want to mention how it affected their sales, if at all.

There are a few things which I look for when I am out at bookshops, but with the notion that everyone is different, please note: this is a personal observation. Woodcut prints stand out, block colors work if the story is easily conveyed, and painted covers can hit or miss depending on the artist used. Simple color schemes are dramatic in isolation, but among a variety of similar imagery gets lost easily.

And here’s something weird: In the last decade, but especially so in the last few years, the trend of using iconic schemes from other media seems to be picking up. Covers which mimic old computer game releases, or video cassettes, or even audio cassettes, are on a bit of a wave right now. I’m not sure if that is retro-love or laziness, but it amuses me to see throwaway culture being immortalized now.

Where are we going? Well, there are still plenty of uncharted atolls we can reach by getting an overall sense of the map. Which is a growing trend, apparently. Books about maps, that is. I’m not a great fan of the introspective titles using maps as metaphor, but straight-up map books? Hell yes. I may be in the minority when it comes to those, but they always seem so optimistic to me. Maps as a way of looking at the world.

I’m not sure where this post was heading.

I started with something about books being awesome, but got turned around.

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The What For The What

Posted by BigWords on April 16, 2016

There’s a whole list of things which are pending, though the most useful – for most people – is going to be the uploading of the majority of non-fiction reference material. Covering literature, film, television, music and more, the material is all of the information which is currently difficult to easily access and utilize. I’ve tried looking, especially for the film and television references, but it seems that the oft-used line “everything is online these days” simply does not hold up. The majority of the material is on the ‘weird and esoteric’ end of the scale, and I’m not entirely sure what can be done with the majority of the facts there are, so people can get access to that as soon as I get time to convert everything into a format that isn’t painful to deal with.

A make-or-break part of my decision to step back into the fray was centered on this. Information. Some people have an instinctive recoil when there is talk about putting a lot of information online, as if the dissemination of materials intended to educate, enlighten and enrich was a bad thing. Well, those people are going to have a hard time over the next year or so, because there are a few hard drives which are full to bursting with reference material.

Along the way I also managed to get a lot of the comics scanned and cleaned up a little – there are about two hundred thousand scans so far, and I expect that to increase a lot once I get through a lot of the things which are sucking up my time at the moment. Those are likely going to find a home on an image hosting site which doesn’t have restrictions of the amount of material one person can upload, but I’ll look into ways of getting a torrent up and running from the HQ. Maybe a cloud hosting thing for the zipped files – that’s for once I have free time, and at present there is no free time.

Something which was suggested in passing, and which I heartily approve, is an easier way to look up books. I have lists and lists and lists here, and there are titles which not only aren’t mentioned on the internet, but whose authors appear to have been ignored completely – I found passing references to some of the books in BMC back-issues, and there are a few reference encyclopedias which have (concise and rather terse) entries for the authors. Given that they deserve some love, I’m going to see if I can get a bunch of the public domain texts up online for free use – I checked PG for the titles I am thinking about, and there aren’t copies available there.

Almost What With The What?

There are times when I have mentioned “almost free use” here, and I want people to note that it doesn’t mean people will have to pay for things that I am making available online. The phrase is merely the easiest to put together, otherwise I would trip myself up in the technicalities and have a massive headache. Better just to go with the phrase as is, however cock-eyed that may be. So yeah, it isn’t an indicator that there is going to be anything more than “when used, this needs credit given and a link placed to source.” It’ll save me trying to figure out various rights uses and blah-blah-blah. Do what thou wilt.

People wonder why I am so stressed all the time – so many things to do, so little time to get everything done.

The Thing For The Thingamajig

At some point I am going to sort out the website, as that is on the list as well. All the information is still here, along with a whole bunch more. I pulled a lot of the biographical material from my handwritten notes rather than using what was present in books and magazines about comics, which have an error rate that makes my head hurt too much thinking about. There’s a duplicate copy of some information lurking on the deep web – and no, I have no idea of the .onion address – but that is an unofficial reproduction rather than an official mirror.

Until things get back to normal…

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The Goodies

Posted by BigWords on April 14, 2016

I am working on getting a bunch of custom materials together for (technically) free use by any small or self-publisher. Fonts, backgrounds, illustrations – all the goodies that will enable some kick-ass covers. I’m getting tired of seeing the usual suspects (Impact, TNR, Arial, and all the rest) being used again and again on covers, often without an idea of what such typefaces might represent to the reader. The overabundance does not bode well for a title standing out, especially at smaller resolutions.

nu_gods

Nu Gods, whose title should come as no surprise to geeks. A heavily simplified Blackletter design, which takes a lot of cues from seventies and eighties science fiction lettering.

Part of putting together links, fonts and images in a communal pool is to see what people can do with the tools – a dozen people are going to come up with a dozen designs, even if the titles are remarkably similar in tone and audience. The idea of people pushing off against the ideas their contemporaries are providing, and stretching out in new and exciting ways. Like evolution, only not.

Ten Free Image Sites

Freeuse
ISO Republic
Gratisography
StockSnap
Unsplash
Pexels
Pic Jumbo
Pixbay
Pixabay
Wikimedia Commons

Check the licenses before using, and do what you can to support free image hosting.

Custom Logo Design

When I have things settled into a groove, there will be time to create cover logos for people who need them. I haven’t got it all worked out yet, but I am hoping that it can assist with under-perfomrming books. A great graphic can be enough to get someone to pick up a title they might otherwise overlook.

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And There’s More…

Posted by BigWords on April 12, 2016

The one thing I am missing more than anything is real-time interaction. These posts are going to be appearing, and I have no way of gauging the reaction to any of the surprises I am throwing out there. Viewing indie publishing as the seventh of the Big Six, which is not as revolutionary a notion as you might think, probably comes closest to a game-breaker, but I am already ahead of the curve in considering this.

There is a chance, for those reading yesterday’s post, that some people are already working out ways to game the system – to get links to their books with the least possible effort so they can get as much out of it as possible. Here’s where I step in with a little thing called Balancing (Wikia) – if you are considering what I have already put forth, I suggest learning about balancing and (please, I’m begging you) take into account the way it works.

Somewhere online there used to be a fantastic quote about balancing – I think it was about MechWarrior or a similar game. It basically laid out the fact that it was possible to have an immensely overpowered playable character while keeping the entire game from revolving around the acquisition of more firepower. You don’t have to understand any of that to get a good understanding though. I’ll break down the principle as it applies here.

Reciprocal links between titles are a bad thing. It shunts the reader back and forth between a tightly-centered community of writers, limiting the opportunity for a reader to discover new, exciting works, and isolates those outside of the community which is heavily promoting their material. It is, if you like, a part of the balancing process. Links are not something to be traded, but something to be offered (without the expectation of same) because a title is worth promoting.

And where, the cries undoubtedly come, do these links go? Ah, that’s the best part. After the text of course. You have the standard “other titles by this author” bit, where people who have enjoyed the title can go find more books, then you have “by this publisher” for titles that are from the same publisher. Right after these, there needs to be a “Recommended Reading” section, where the good stuff you love and want to highlight goes. This is the special little section which guaranteed you a place in the hearts and minds of authors and readers.

But wait – what if someone does all this, then starts acting like a dick? There’s a solution for every problem, and this one is especially simple. You don’t simply start removing links to an author who is using fake reviews, or slamming others on their blog, or… Whatever the flavor of the day for bad behavior is. We need to cultivate the respect of our audiences, and that comes with a cost. The cost, in this case, isn’t financial. We need patience with those who are, perhaps, a little looser in their concept of respect and wisdom.

We need a naughty step.

A reference, I am certain, which needs no explaining to a large number of people reading this. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it is a “time out” for people behaving badly.

Which brings us to another problem – who determines what is bad behavior? I, certainly, have neither the time nor the patience to go through thousands of authors’ blogs and websites to vet the ideas which might be considered inappropriate, and I wouldn’t want to even if I had the time. That ain’t my job. It’s something the writing community needs to have a long discussion about.

Okay, so that’s two serious posts in a row.

For the moment, while this is still something on paper rather than an all-out attack on the stability of the overwhelming forces at play in publishing, lets decompress – here are three cool things everyone can undertake in the next week.

  1. A Recommended Reading page on your blog or website, highlighting at least ten indie books you feel deserve wider recognition. Leave links in the comments – when I get back online I’ll okay any which have been held up in the spam filter.
  2. Reach out to your fellow authors and talk. No ‘buy my book’ nonsense – just normal interaction. I know you can all do this, because I was reading your blogs before my ‘vacation.’
  3. Start writing up your lists of books for the back matter of your forthcoming books. As you go forward you should hopefully see how this brings readers to minor works, and as it costs nothing to do it ain’t exactly a stress factor on your schedule.

Tomorrow I promise there will be less serious, though none the less interesting, thoughts on something which has been bothering me since I caught up on happenings in the world.

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Books – Something – Profit!

Posted by BigWords on April 11, 2016

An obvious question people are likely asking:

How do you know that what you are doing is different to everyone else?

Which is extremely easy – and yet tiresome – to answer. There’s thousands of indie publishers when you take into account the self-published and the niche publishers, but none (so far) have been set up in a way which embraces the promotion of books irrespective of the publisher. The main goal of That Which Will Be is to celebrate the rich diversity of books currently available.

The ways a person can promote a book on their own is going to be limited by a number of factors:

  • A knowledge of blogs/websites which review books.
  • Ability to present ideas in concise and clear text.
  • Ability to parse the subtleties of a forum or chat-room.
  • Access to websites which require paid access.
  • Access to websites which restrict membership.
  • Ability to network outside key areas of interest.

There are a bunch of other things which come into play, especially when you take into account foreign languages, paywalls, regular internet access, health, income and so on. As a catch-all for the big problems, we can see straight-off that some of the problems which restrict the dissemination of information about a title might be self-inflicted (however involuntarily), so by acting as a promoter I can try and get eyes on titles without authors pissing off people who don’t want to be given the hard-sell.

I’ll admit that there’s a lot of work involved in this aspect of things, and it is early days as far as the requirements go. I have small chunks of the overall layout and reach calculated, along with an estimate of how much work it is going to take. It turns out, amazingly, that the numbers aren’t so bad. In fact, it makes more sense to heavily promote my “competition” than it does attempting to maintain an increasingly irrelevant isolationist ideology.

That’s one aspect that I have been providing people with when asked about why they should join in this little adventure. What I haven’t explained is the extent of the advertising. See, there is only so much that a single website or blog can do, and that – in a nutshell – is the notion which is going to shake things up. This isn’t just a business plan, but a philosophy which is for the benefit of writers, readers and small publishers.

But… It isn’t entirely about that.

Whenever there’s a new idea, it needs time to settle in to a form – the standardized  version which has been tested and stressed, which has had the rough edges sanded off for a better user experience. I have a fairly solid grasp on how to roll out the wider application of the concept, and ways to prevent the blatant abuse of same. As I have pointed out – plenty of time to figure things out and examine the repercussions.

There is one thing which has remained constant. Throughout the process of putting writers, designers, programmers, musicians, and other talented people together, there has been a focus on shared benefits. See, it never made sense to my why people disliked the notion of having books adapted into games (Dune, especially, comes in for a degree of criticism in certain circles), or having albums written about characters, or other possibly interesting avenues.

Part of the reason I am offline is this – because the idea will draw out the freakshow crowd who are going to attack everything, and because I don’t want to draw the same freakshows to any of the places I hang out. There is enough to deal with at the moment without having to sort through all the additional crap which can be so easily avoided simply by refusing to make myself a target.

And there’s an addendum to the notion of everyone grouping together. See, I’m drip-feeding you the information for a reason… Should I go all-out and fill in details, the folks who see change – any change – as a threat, and who go out of their way to maintain a status quo… Those people are gonna go batshit. The implications have probably already hit them. As these words sink in, the realization of what I am promoting is likely forming in the brains of everyone else.

The sliding scale.
I want you to consider it.

How many indie titles are out there? Each blog and website deep into promoting works which profit them. Think about the individual push each title gets, and imagine if – even for a moment – the collective might of the self-publishing community working together on a single title… Everyone throwing their weight behind a title in the knowledge that their turn will come and the internet will fill with ads for their novels.

I told you my ideas were scary.

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Sneak Peek

Posted by BigWords on April 10, 2016

Thought that I would share a little something to whet the appetite of those thinking this would be three weeks of me complaining. Nope – building towards…

sneak_peek Title: Terror on the Peak
Author: William Chassin
June 17, 2016.
eBook, 70,000 words.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all the information I can hand out at the moment as there is a lot to be finalized. The back matter is a tug of war, which I think I am winning…

Billy claims it is a thriller, I thought it was a straight-up horror, and others have claimed it was psychological drama.

And that might not be the cover it runs under, as I have a massive problem with the washed-out look.

My own title – Red Somethingorother – is set for the beginning of June, but I might push it back to coincide with another title which has been gaining traction with a couple of people who have good taste. Not that I have terrible taste, but I don’t follow the latest fashions with anything more than mild disinterest.

Being in charge of certain things comes with a cost. I gotta be on the ball when it comes to much of the mundane things. And, as you will notice from the image and information provided, there are still secrets I have to keep – some of which are being held back on the request of others.

Come back tomorrow to find out that there are more important things than titles.

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The Thing I Can’t Talk About

Posted by BigWords on April 6, 2016

Towards the end of the month, in a shade over two weeks from now, there’s going to be an announcement which goes a little towards explaining exactly why I have trekked halfway across the UK to get internet access, but right now, sitting the wrong side of the official kick-off, I can’t go into any details on what is going on. The plan, as it was, began with a request to jump in with an established group doing… well, that part is hugely complex.

The skinny on why I went in a different direction, and joined with the folks I am currently producing words for, is that the other options all required things I didn’t have easy access to. Or any access to. The option of doing what I wanted, rather than conforming to other requirements, was too strong an enticement, and – the important part – I was getting to bring a lot of my work to the table. I have a lot of material which has never been seen in any way, ranging as far back as scripts from the 90s. There’s plenty to play with.

There’s many things which I am changing in the process of making material which can sell easily – some essays are being repurposed into fiction, a television proposal for a sitcom is being heavily altered, and I’m having to get used to the idea that the lack of equipment can be as much of a push towards solutions as it is a pain in the ass. It won’t stop me complaining abut ancient software and terrible hardware, but if all goes well I will be able to upgrade when the money starts coming in again.

The only way that the Thing I Can’t Talk About is having any effect on my day-to-day life is the time everything is taking. I had planned out a lot more I wanted to do before things got close to the announcement, but there’s a hundred and one things which need immediate attention (and I am on point all the time, apparently). I haven’t done this much design work or editing in years. I’ve even been doing small amounts of CGI in aid of moving projects forward, which – on a computer over six years old – isn’t the most relaxing activity.

It also means I can’t take on any other work while things are so busy. Which kinda sucks when I’m mostly in this gig for the green. I still haven’t seen anything which is meant to come out in the first wave of material, but it should be fine given the nature of the folks who I’m dealing with. Anything that sucks? Hell, I can take the blame for anything which isn’t polished and shiny – as long as there isn’t any throwing of vegetables and fruit, which I don’t approve of. Throw candy my direction instead.

As soon as I get info, I’ll link it here.

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Lit List: Harsh Realm

Posted by BigWords on September 11, 2012

The short-live FOX series Harsh Realm doesn’t have a lot of literary elements, and as it is a rather brief affair there are videos (of music from the series) at the end of the post to make up for the lack of material.

Pilot

The main character, Thomas Hobbes is named for the philosopher of the same name (05 Apr 1588 – 04 Dec 1679).
Pinocchio is named for the main character in the 1883 Carlo Collodi novel The Adventures of Pinocchio.
Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory (part 1, part 2) the seat Hobbes enters Harsh Realm through has “seige” / “perilous” carved in the armrests

Leviathan

The episode title is named after Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes.

Camera Obscura

The Bible

Circe (unproduced)

Episode named after a character from The Odyssey by Homer.



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Lit Lists

Posted by BigWords on September 8, 2012

This is the start of a semi-regular feature – every time I have nothing else urgently requiring my attention, I’ll put up a list of books seen in films and television shows. It is, of course, based on the Rory List which Abby featured on her blog. To open with I wanted to pick a film I really love, but I could probably have planned this better. For Fight Club, the list of books is staggeringly small – Anger Kills by Redford Williams, M.D. & Virginia Williams, PH.D. is the only book whose cover clearly seen, and there are a couple of quick flashes of a dictionary when the Narrator is having the skin on the back of his hand burned away. It isn’t a lost cause for magazines as the Fürni furniture catalog (which I’m pretty sure is fictitious) and Movieline (Jul 1995) are shown. Also, the Narrator reads from Annotated Reader (which I would Google to find out the deal behind it, but I was kinda disheartened by the lack of a juicy list to put together and didn’t bother. In addition, the line “You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world” is inspired by Also Sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, for those of you who need to know this kind of stuff. As I pointed out, I could have planned this better.

Console yourself with Chuck Palahniuk’s bibliography.

So… What about some other film? Children Of Men, perhaps… There are a lot of books used as background filler, though actually displaying them on-screen is rarer than it could have been. Man, everyone else seems to be either waaay better at this shit than I am, or they are picking the easy films and television shows to do this with. I couldn’t make out any of the titles in the damn film, even though Theo walks past stacks of books during the course of the film. Maybe “boy films” are the problem. Possibly looking at the books in comedies would throw up more examples of what I am looking for. C’mon, it can’t be that hard to find characters reading on film.

Miss Congeniality

The Invisible Intruder by Carolyn Keene (Harriet Stratmeyer Adams)
Essentials Of Russian Grammar by Nicholas Maltzoff.

Dear gods, Miss Congeniality has more books visible than Fight Club – am I in Bizarro World? Maybe I’ll have better luck with a television show…

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this.

Just because.

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Writers & Readers On YouTube

Posted by BigWords on April 12, 2012

This is a quick note for self-published and small press authors who have videos up on YouTube – if your video has had a content match, please pass on the information either in the comments section below, or by e-mail (bigwords88writing@gmail.com). I especially want to hear about content mismatches where the decision has gone against you. From book bloggers (or, if you prefer, vloggers), also, I am looking for anyone who has run afoul of the Content ID system.

I’ll be posting about this soon, and I need as much first-hand information as possible.

Oh, and you really should tell me when these types of things are impacting on peoples’ copyright.

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